Friday, February 28, 2014

Oh Be Careful Little Eyes

“…Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” Romans 12:17

When we were children in Sunday School we would always sing the wonderful song, "Oh Be Careful Little Eyes." And though I just sang it when I was a child, I really get it now. It really should probably be sang by adults more than children.

Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.
For the father up above,
Is looking down in love.
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.

Oh, be careful little ears what you hear.

Oh, be careful little mouth what you say.

Oh, be careful little hands what you do.

Oh, be careful little feet where you go.

Any of those difficult for you to confess? Let me help you think through them.

Food - Things that you long for comfort or for spoiling. Things that can cause you to stumble or be a stumbling block for others. Do you love to eat when you are down and depressed? For me, it depends on what caused the emotion. How about spoilage? Would you rather have a well prepared meal by someone else that is $20/plate rather than your own work?

Possessions - Coveting is dangerous and deadly, because we do not realize it has consumed us until we are in trouble. Have you bought a car you cannot afford, but you had to have it? Clothing or accessories justified for "work"? Electronics that are collecting dust because you don't have enough time to use them all? House? Boat? RV? Vacation Home? Vacation? Furniture? Dishes? Appliances? Cell phone package? Cell phone?

Sex - Also coveting, but it is of a different nature. Men and women are built very differently. Yet, there is one thing that is not different -they both HAVE needs and desires. For men, visual stimuli trigger the awareness of this desire/need. Women see relationships in movie, books, or even in other couples that begin to have a stirring within them awakening the need to have "that type" of relationship. If your eyes are presented an option, than that leads to contemplation of how you can obtain the satisfaction of meeting the need.

Movies & TV - When we watch enough of material that is over the line or on the line, we tend to have our own blurring of the line. When you immerse yourself in a world of gray matter, you eventually become a darker shade of gray rather than a cleaner shade of white.

Music - Garbage in; garbage out.
Jokes - Garbage in; garbage out.
Movies & TV - Garbage in; garbage out.

Your mouth is truly the most impacting strength you possess. It can make or break the confidence and future of a multitude, for what you say to one can, and often will, cause a ripple effect. If you allow negativity to spew, it spawns cynicism and hate. This attitude can suffocate a home. Are you too comical? Are you too serious? Are you too critical? Your mouth can also offer healing words. Your words can encourage. Your words can inspire. Your words can bring peace. Your words can resolve conflict. Your words can change everything. EVERYTHING.

Building for the needy.
Baking for the hungry.
Writing for the lonely.
Hugging for the weary.
Carrying for the weak.
Directing for the lost.

Where you go, people will follow. It is true. They may not follow with their feet, but they are following with their thoughts. Anywhere you choose to go is effective in your influence. I am not just talking about mission trips versus strip clubs. Shopping. Establishments. Leisure activities. Schools. Days you sacrifice for these extra events. Where you choose to not go is important. Are you unwilling to serve? Willing to be among the least of these? To be uncomfortable? Or dirty? or tired?

Here is one not mentioned in the song:

Mind - what you think. The world may be oblivious to your thoughts, but He is not.

Now that you are all having a panic attack right along with me, just remember that where you were yesterday is not where you have to be today. We are created by a forgiving Creator who has given us the ability to choose. That is the last part of the song that we forget.

For the Father up above
Is looking down in LOVE

He loves us even when we choose wrong. He loves us as we are learning to choose right. His desire is that we choose to honor him, but we must choose.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Boy Who Will Marry My Daugther

Today is a significant day in the Powell family. Our oldest has embarked upon her final year in the single digits. Nine seems like just another year in the grand spectrum of childhood, but my mind constantly thinks in milestones and monumental occasions. You see, last year was our halfway point to the ever fearful 16 – driving. It awakened in us the dire need to begin to plan for her vehicle and save for that added expense. I am just crazy enough that I have researched safety ratings on current cars; because current cars will be used cars in our price range come time to buy her car. Crazy, I know. Just another little peek inside my warped little mind.

Today is the marker of her final year of her first decade of life. Nine years ago today, I awaited the arrival of my first baby. Oh the joy that flooded our souls as we knew the addition to our family would change everything. Even more so, nine months prior to this day, I began a specific prayer for my child. It involved a number of specific petitions to the Lord encompassing many upcoming markers in her development. I prayed for her acceptance of His Lordship at an early age. Check. I prayed for friends to be abundant and for her personality to be attractive and pleasing to His eyes. Check. I prayed for her health and well being throughout her life. I prayed for her protection from persecution from the ones who do not believe. I prayed for her future spouse. I still pray for him today.

Though you might think it is silly, God never tires of my requests. Right now, somewhere, is a young man developing and being nurtured by a parent or guardian raising him. Right now, somewhere, a young man is watching and observing how a man is to treat a woman. Right now, somewhere, a young man is gaining an education that will equip him to be successful and a confident provider for his family. Right now, somewhere, a young man is making a decision about his Creator as to whether he believes and trusts or is still skeptical. Right now, somewhere, a young man is grasping what love is and is, again, learning by what is modeled before him. Right now, somewhere, a young man is falling in love with a hobby that will be his joy and release when he needs a break from being the dedicated leader of his home. Right now, somewhere, a young man is learning how to handle conflict and solve problems. Right now, somewhere, a young man is learning to communicate in a pleasant and constructive way.

Ephesians 5 describes how a wife and husband are to interact with one another. Yet, it is often ignored in the first part of the chapter Paul’s specific emphasis how every relationship is to be established. We are to live a life of love. There is not to be any immorality or impurity or greed. There is to be no deception with empty words or deeds of the darkness. There is to be a life of decisions made in wisdom, not foolishness. We are to speak words of kindness and encouragement making the most of every opportunity. We are to submit to one another out of reverence.

We are to love as Christ loves us. He submitted himself to death on the cross so that we would not have to suffer. He loved with a radical commitment to our advancement and well being. By beginning the practice of this style of love, my daughter will understand how to have a successful marriage one day. The man that will take her hand will love her this way as well, for I cry out to the Lord for this and He hears my cry. The man that will one day take her hand will not be deceiving or dishonest with her as he is fleeing from the darkness and making the most of every opportunity to encourage her as well as others he impacts – like my grandchildren. He will be selfless because he has learned from scripture to not be greedy. He will love her like Christ loves the church.

I pray for both of my girls concerning this very topic. It is imperative that as our world continues to embrace things that are displeasing to the Lord, I must pray for these people that will one day be a part of my family. They need the prayer just as I do to get through these most complicated times. God desires to know my desires and I desire for His desires to become my desires. How could my God not desire for my daughters to be aligned with someone who will help them stand strong against the evil one seeking to destroy? My God will supply all my needs. One day I will not be here and I need someone to pick-up where I leave off encouraging and inspiring my girls to greatness.

Young man, I am praying for you and I look forward to the day we meet. On that day, I will begin to hear the story of how God answered my prayers through the course of your life. I will celebrate with you how you have overcome obstacles and become the man He intends you to be.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Which Voice

When I began my journey to weight loss after my first baby, I returned to my regiment that I had maintained prior to this wonderful experience. I am a jogger. I don't know if I constitute as a runner. I have never done a full marathon, so I don't know if I am entitled to that label. Nevertheless, my first run post-baby was brutal. As you have read in other posts, I am rather determined, though. Yet, I must disclose to you that there were voices of negativity inside of me. These voices told me that I was an embarrassment to my husband because I had gotten so large. Voices that told me that I would never lose all that weight. Voices that told me my efforts were hopeless. Voices that reminded me of the pleasantly plump little girl I was at one time and told me that I need to accept it.

When the news of the return of my mother's cancer hit my ears, my heart grieved. A battle began in my mind. I had been given 2 more years with her and what had I done with those 2 years? Did I really think that I was the respectful and appreciative child that I should have been? What could I ever do that could be enough to say I am sorry for any time that I had wasted being a selfish child? While the other side of the argument was God whispering to me preparation for what was to come. God spoke peace and acceptance over me. God gave very clear direction to me for actions and behaviors. God's voice was louder. God's voice was true.

When I lost my third child, I was at a complete low. The loss was excruciating, but the voices of insecurity were so LOUD. It was so hard to fight off the constant accusations of the loss being my fault. If I had stopped running, than the baby would not have miscarried...even though I read and reread and reread that maintaining my running was OK. If I had eaten better or more. If I had slowed down. If I had prayed more. I deserved it because I was too old to have another baby. I didn't deserve the blessing of a third and I was being selfish. Some of these voices were even audible with actual people in the community saying them to or about me. Neat, huh? God's voice eventually won out, but I will not tell you that the voices do not still try to creep in and make me experience anguish. Every April 17, I have a choice to make. That morning is a very heavy pep talk.

In his new book, Crashing the Chatterbox, Steven Furtick says, "when you open yourself up to dialogue with the enemy, you have already lost!" That was huge for me. I know that I am to listen to God's voice above all, but to have the release from the argument was so empowering. I have spent my entire life bantering with the enemy as he speaks negative and destructive words and thoughts into my soul. I cannot stop him from making these attempts to tear me down, but I can stop myself from responding. I can choose to say the truth every time the lies are uttered to my ears. I can choose to acknowledge that I have purpose and was created for great things. I can choose to say that, "I know the plans He has for me...plans to PROSPER me and NOT HARM me, plans to give me HOPE and a FUTURE." (Jeremiah 29:11)

I can say that, "If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer," including peace from the storm that Satan is trying to stir inside of me. Matthew 21:22

I can know that, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32

"...we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that the sufferings produce perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. AND HOPE DOES NOT DISSAPOINT US, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us." Romans 5:3-5

Saturate in truth and use it to give you victory over the voices. He speaks truth, not lies. Anything that gives you self-doubt or insecurity is not of God. Don't argue back with the voices. Don't give in to the lies. Speak truth and listen to the voice of truth over all the chatter.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Just Try for Greatness is Before You

How we are raised is extremely impacting upon how we approach life. That goes without saying. Even if we are raised in a negative environment, the struggles we overcome to survive that situation will alter how we approach most of what life throws at us. Each generation, we see the great stories of those who overcome challenges. Either the hero has grown up in a home without funding, or family, or freedom or the hero has made a decision to place others above themselves. Each story is different. Each story is empowering.

Challenges bring character. Challenges vary upon what you’re capable of processing at that moment in time. Challenges determine future. Most importantly the way in which the challenge is presented is not really the observation to be noted. The reaction and response to the challenge is from what we learn. By studying historical figures, awe and intrigue is exposed by the way that life presented challenges that seemed impossible to overcome; yet they prevailed. George Washington’s ride across the Delaware is not just inspiring because of the great leader, but because of the men who sacrificed and followed him across that icy cold waterway late in the night. Rosa Parks’ determination was not just empowering for both blacks and women, but also, the people who committed to follow her were mesmerizing as they gave up convenience to pursue justice.

Somewhere in the raising of great figures such as these, there was a voice of encouragement and strength. There was a voice whispering hope. There was an urging of endurance and success. There was someone or something that gave them the boldness to try something that was unthinkable at that time. A parent; a grandparent; an aunt or uncle; a teacher; a coach; a minister; a sports hero; a friend; an enemy even can be an instrument that brings about great victory over adversity. To just try. Pause for a minute and ponder the things that you have not tried simply out of fear or pessimism. That list can become extensive. My list makes me embarrassed.

Our society today promotes a current motto of YOLO – You Only Live Once. I have heard some leaders of respect discredit this motto as it tends to empower the liberal behavior of trying things that can be harmful. Yet, there is another way to look at this same statement. You only have one chance to make a decision that could alter your future and/or the future of others. That is powerful and often completely ignored. If I live a life that is afraid of trying things because of fear of failure or because of fear of rejection or because I just don’t think I can, then I am living a model for my children to behave the same way.

The greatest generation is called so for a reason. They modeled for us endurance. They modeled for us sacrifice. They modeled for us commitment. They modeled for us love. They modeled for us sacrifice. They modeled for us excellence, valor, hope, persistence, joy in all circumstances. They modeled greatness.

More than looking to history to see how we should live our lives, we must observe the obvious.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus. Romans 15:4-5

The greatest generation was the greatest because their endurance brought unity, just as Paul emphasizes here in Romans. We no longer have that unity as those who are committed to endurance are few and far between.

Yesterday, I wrestled this beast in my own life. I am a play through the pain kinda gal, for the most part. However, I am far from strong. There are events that happen in my life that cause me to give pause or even give up or fail. I have tried to not be a person that is of questionable endurance or perseverance, but I will not deny that it is a daily challenge.

My heart was filled with humility and awe yesterday as I watched my child embrace endurance. The mothering side of me was in helicopter mode as I tried to prevent injury, but at the same time, God was constantly telling me to be silent and sit down. If I hover, I will not allow her to experience the challenge that brings about endurance. If she doesn’t develop endurance and perseverance, she will not be able to establish commitment and sacrifice. If she does not establish commitment and sacrifice, she will never understand true joy and love. She will not experience greatness. She will not add to the unity that is to be expected of those who are in Christ Jesus.

May we learn to try again…even if failure is possible. May we learn to commit to something greater. May we model so that others will bring the same commitment to excellence. Who can you be a hero for? Just try.

2 Corinthians 1:6
2 Corinthians 6:4
Colossians 1:11
1 Thessalonians 1:3
1 Timothy 6:11
2 Timothy 3:10
Titus 2:2

Monday, February 24, 2014

It's Yo Thang... what you wanna do.

Our society is saturated in self-gratification. We pursue jobs that are not only financially rewarding, but that are also inspiring and intriguing. Let's face it, nobody wishes to spend their days immersed in a behavior that sucks the joy out of you. So, often people find themselves either changing jobs or going back to school or seeking transfer within the business or changing careers.

If changing careers is not the answer for the fulfillment a person desires, you also see the dabbling in various hobbies or extracurricular activities. There are so many NEW hobbies to have that were completely unheard of just a decade or so ago. Flipping houses. Frisbee golf. Trash to treasure. Cupcake decorating. Jewelry made out of rubber bands for crying out loud. Regardless of what you are pursuing, you are pursuing something. The big question that must be asked is what void is it filling in your soul? You see, there are purposes for each of the activities in which we participate. Let me say that again. They should have purpose. Even relaxation is a purpose.

God has blessed us all with different talents and abilities. It is sometimes within the battle of career change or new hobby that we actually discover what our true talents and abilities are that are deep within us. Your dabbling allows you to find strengths and weaknesses, even in extracurricular. Have you ever played a sport? When you fall in love with a sport, you typically fall in love with participating in a particular role on the team. For instance, I was a setter for my volleyball team. Obviously, outside hitter was not an option for me as I am only a whopping 5'4", yet even so, I fell in love with that position and even now when we take a court just for a pickup game that is my spot. I am also loud and a talker, so I was the distractibility factor on many of my teams growing up.

Now, have you ever played a sport that you really loved, but the sport didn't love you as much? This sport took far more time and energy for you in practice and effort and the practice was not enjoyable. You find yourself engrossed in trying to prove to yourself that you can accomplish this somewhat challenging skill and yet it owns you. OWNS YOU! There is something to be said for dedication to practice and pursuance of excellence. Yet, there is also notation given to exerting great amounts of energy and resources to something that is not allowing you to pursue what is your true purpose. Throughout high school, college, and after, we watched the ever popular TV show Friends. There was an episode where a wealthy gentleman that Monica was dating decided that he was going to use his financial resources to pour into training for MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) competition. If you have seen the episode, this character was nowhere near the beginnings of preparation for MMA. Even after some time of training, his first competition left him pretty “messed up”. It’s not his thing.

Same is to say for jobs. If you are in a job that is necessary at this point in your life to pay the bills and to give you security, that is understandable. However, as you are involved in your work at where you are presently assigned, be aware that you can make it something that is pleasurable during your hours of commitment. If you allow it to control you and speak negativity to you, then you become ineffective not only at the job, but in the rest of your life. Think about it. If your job exhausts you, the tasks involved as a parent are not pleasurable as you no longer have the energy to give to your family. If your job causes you sadness, then you often just go home to escape instead of participating in other things you love.

1 Timothy 4:14 - 16 - Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

You have a gift. It does not have to be limited to one facet of your life. It needs to be used in all areas of your day to day routine. If your gift can become a job, than DO IT. If your gift can be used at your job, than do that. Seriously. If you can sing, than use that gift to spread joy to your coworkers as you skip down the hall to make copies making a joyful noise to the Lord. It allows others to see; to see God in you, to see your joy in the circumstances, to see a talent not being neglected. Find the one thing that you do well, and DO IT WELL.

Realize that your neglect of your gift by trying to be other roles in this life is causing harm not only to you, but to others. Even in volunteering, you need to be aware that though you have a heart to serve, you cannot, and should not, do everything. Shelley Gigglio spoke at a conference I recently attended and emphasized the importance of letting your “Yes” be the impact it is intended to be. Your “yes” to accepting a role can determine as to how the future of other people will unfold. The wrong “yes” can have a negative effect on people because you are in a spot ministering where you should not be. You are the wrong person investing (and exhausting) yourself, and that could actually devastate you and/or someone else. While at the same time, you are not investing where you should be and someone is missing out on God’s blessings He planned to deliver through you.

The right “yes” can change your future and the future of others for eternity. Find your thing that you do well and say “yes”.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Little About Me

Often those little surveys are passed around on Facebook or on email asking you random questions about yourself so that others can better know you. Sometimes they are ridiculous and sometimes they are rather intriguing. There are only so many times I wish to tell people that I prefer my toilet paper to go over and not under on the dispenser, though. In any case, I thought it would be beneficial to let some of you know randomness about me.

Here are things that are most commonly known about me.

1. I love, LOVE, love peanut butter, but I hate peanuts...well, I hate most all nuts.
2. I love college football (insert elephant trumpet)
3. I'm "crazy" about basketball and am so excited that March Madness is coming.
4. My affection for shoes is endless.
5. My two daughters are often called "mini-Jodi". Bless them, Lord.
6. I am terrified of snakes, and no, there are not any "good" snakes. (Read Genesis people)
7. Sarcasm pours out of my pores.
8. I'm a runner...but not very fast.
9. My husband is the preacherman.
10. My favorite color is blue, and right now it is the shade of turquoise.

Things that are less commonly known about me.

1. My pinky toe is sideways.
2. My favorite golden retriever and I would share candy bars when I was little; and no, he did not die from it.
3. I have experienced the joy of kidney stones and would birth 35 more children before experiencing that again.
4. I won $100 from WZZK when I was a teenager.
5. I don't sleep well - ever. :)
6. I am a presidential junky...and history.
7. Twizzlers taste like plastic to me.
8. I sweat easily and therefore can become soaking wet by just standing outside.
9. I'm not afraid of heights, but I am afraid of falling.
10. I had a major car wreck with my mom my senior year of high school.

What I learn from me from the above 20 things...

1. Peanut butter has protein in it. (And lots of fat)
2. I have mellowed over the years in my fandom as I do not want to be remembered as the one who is obnoxious.
3. I can be loyal even when things are not pretty.
4. Find your one thing that you can indulge and be cautious but purposeful.
5. My influence is crucial.
6. The serpent is cursed.
7. Making you laugh is healthy because laughter is the best medicine.
8. Running gets my blood flowing and makes me a better person overall in the morning and throughout the day.
9. My behavior is being monitored.
10. Immersing yourself in colors that make you happy also help your overall demeanor.

The other facts:

1. God made me this way so that I can share with others how each of us have our own beauty marks.
2. Sometimes not knowing is best.
3. Ironically, my kidney stone was before the birth of my two children and I know God did that so that I would appreciate childbirth all the more.
4. I spend money too fast and yet sometimes I don't spend any because I want to make the best use of the money.
5. My mind is constantly running and not resting. I need downtime, because God cannot use me in this state. Therefore, my to-do list needs to be surrendered.
6. I love learning about people because everyone has a story. EVERYONE.
7. Food should not waste my time...nor should anything else.
8. Make sure when you are causing yourself discomfort it will have an end result that is worth the discomfort.
9. I don't like to be out of control. Falling is a loss of control.
10. God hears my prayers - ALWAYS.

Thursday, February 20, 2014


Many denomenations approach the practice of confession in different ways. Regardless of how you feel the practice of confession should take place, we all agree that it should. I am going to paraphrase my Bible's commentary on confession.

"If we are believers, than we know that our sins are forgiven, yet why is confession still necessary. Confession is MORE than appropriating Christ's forgiveness for what we have done wrong. Confession is agreeing with God that your thoughts, words, and actions are wrong and not in alignment with His will for your life. It is turning away from that which caused you sin and towards that which saved you from the sin."

However, there is the practice of habitual confession. Where do you draw the line of "confessing" for the same sin over and over again? Isn't there a time when you must realize that you are not really agreeing with God that your thoughts, words, and actions are wrong? Isn't there a point where you realize that you are not really pursuing alignment with Him? You love the act more than you love the Creator. You abuse "freedom" in Christ.

Perhaps you do not confess at all because you took that one blanketed forgiveness as good enough. So perhaps you need to re-evaluate this whole "freedom" in Christ thing too.

Whatcha need to tell Him about today? He already knows, but He is waiting to chat with you about it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Don't Miss This - Part 2

Exodus 14
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

Dry ground. Dry ground. The earth that was once covered in water was immediately dry. God didn't just part the water for them to trudge across in the mud. He made it incredibly easy for them. No mire for their wagons or animals to get stuck. No slippery slimy algae to cause them to stumble. Dry ground.

Not only was the ground dry, it remained that way for the extent of the journey across the Red Sea. There are many different locations along the Red Sea where it is thought that the Israelites crossed, but let me just tell you that none of them are "a short walk." After they whined and complained and collapsed under fear, the very water upon which they were gawking began to part. I feel short of breathe even now just thinking about that scene.

After standing there for a moment, paralyzed by the enormity of this vision, the Israelites began following Moses, the one whose faith was enough to part these waters and deliver them. That just happened! Yet, knowing how their disposition was before the waters parted, I can imagine that as they were walking through the cavern of aquatic masses, there was probably fear and hasty movement. Remember, this is the same group that will later complain again even after being face to face with sharks, eels, jelly fish and the like.

We go through amazing miraculous blessings in our lives so often and so very shortly we forget the impact of the experience. Look at Americans and their great patriotism. We were invincible and united after 9/11, but wow it is far more difficult to see the camaraderie in our present year.

As for me, the same God who walked my mother through a challenge with breast cancer in 2003, was also the same God who would walk with her again in 2006 as it returned. I saw my own wall of water. I watched Him grant her more time on this earth in 2003. God allowed access to medical treatment that could provide restoration to her. God allowed man to get a peek inside the creation of the human body in order to even guess which combination of chemicals could be used to remove these small little cells that were not normal to the original design. It was not the chemotherapy that saved her, nor was it the surgery, it was God. He chose to answer our prayers and to hold her close as he used her life to reflect His glory.

For those brief 3 years in between the bouts with cancer, I did grow in my walk with the Lord, but I will not even begin to tell you that I did not have moments of complaining or exhaustion. I am far from perfect. I will tell you that I am not one to question God, though. I still had some of that same old me inside. The same old me that would whine from time to time. The same old me that would try to do things in my own power from time to time. The same old me that could easily forget the wall of water.

But I have walked on dry ground more than once. Many of my journeys have been several miles long like this walk for the Israelites. But the ground was dry...meaning He provided what I needed at that moment to get through that challenge. And let me tell you something, I am better for it. More often than not, I do not know why I am experiencing a trial as it begins, but I know why when He knows I can handle it. He delivers me! He has delivered you. And He will again. Don't miss this. Ask Him to show you the water - both that you have walked through and the water you are walking beside right now.

Don't Miss This - Part 1

"Don't miss this!" A common catch phrase mentioned by my spouse on a Sunday morning. Usually he frames the key take-home point with this phrase. Within this warning he often highlights some poignant statement made by Paul or Christ himself. He is urging our congregation to digest the passage in a new chew on it instead of just accepting it. The awe of God and His splendor. The mercy of His forgiveness. The firmness of His law and teaching. The application to us, His followers. So often, Jeremy will bring to light a passage that has often been misinterpreted or misunderstood and paints it with such color that makes it impossible to miss.

Last night he was reading through the Bible with our girls and was covering the story of Moses leading the Israelites through the parted water. I heard the voice of the Lord clearly say to me, "Don’t miss this, Jodi!"

Exodus 14
10 As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD.11 They said to Moses, "Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Didn't we say to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians'? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!" 13 Moses answered the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." 15 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground…21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.

Oh my goodness, to be there. I’m a crier and an emotional roller coaster, so as I think about the very thought of being delivered from captivity at all, I know I would be in tearful humility. Yet, it is mentioned in verse 11 the fear and questioning of God’s deliverance through Moses with sarcasm and pessimism. Jodi paraphrase:

“What? Were there not enough graves where we were, so you just moved us to an easier place of burial? We told you we were afraid this was a mistake. We told you this was impossible and that the odds were against us. Did you not look at us compared to the Egyptian army? We stand no chance. But we trusted you and look at where we are now? We will try to swim and most likely ½ of us will drown or we can just stand here and take the beating that is going to come upon us by this enraged mob heading toward us. Thanks, Moses. Thanks a lot. (or even Thanks, God! Thanks a lot!) “

We look back at this passage and say to these Israelites, you ungrateful people. Don’t you know what all God has done for you prior to your life of enslavement? Don’t you know how God protected you in Egypt from the angel of death? Don’t you see how you WALKED out of Egypt with no resistance? Don’t you see how He has provided for you? Wow, you guys are just a bunch of brats. Right? You know where I’m going don’t you.

In our family, there has been constant events of, mmmm shall we say, challenge. One instance that comes to mind when I think about times where I have been at my wits end was in 2003 when I get the call that my mom has breast cancer. Now, I know that is familiar for many as it is a large plague that is upon our current culture. My husband and I were in the parking lot of Compass Bank in Fort Worth, Texas. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had locked my keys in my car and we had just left the bank with some stressful meeting. I know that probably another 50 things of conflict had happened prior to that moment because I do pretty good to not break under pressure. My dad called. At this time in my life, my dad did not just up and call at random. That was Mom’s job to check in on us.

So when I answer the phone and it is my dad, I get this overwhelming feeling of fear. “I need to talk to you a minute,” were the words out of his mouth after the standard greetings. He proceeds to tell me my mother’s condition and I asked the hundreds of necessary questions. When I was able to detach from them, meaning I had ended the phone conversation and they could no longer hear me, I lost it – right there in the middle of the parking lot of Compass bank for everyone in the bank to see and for everyone driving by to see. I wasn’t just crying I was throwing a tantrum to God. My poor husband did his best to console me, but he also just let me have my episode.

“Why God would you do this to my mother? She has been so faithful to you? She is more than a follower of you; she is in love with you, Lord? Why would you place this fear upon her? Why would you do this when I am so far away and I cannot even hug her right now? Please make this a mistake! Please perform a miracle! She has served you with all of her talent and energy from the time she could stand and sing your praises. God, she is our family’s rock! Fix this! Fix this now!”

Yep, I was an Israelite! I looked at the Egyptian army (cancer) running towards me and all I saw was the water. But God did not forsake us! My family persevered. And, as you might have guessed, I gained composure pretty quickly after my loving Heavenly Father pulled me into His lap and let me sob. And as I sobbed, He whispered words of promise and of hope. He washed over me His loving patience with me even as I questioned Him. He blessed me with a support group that is irreplaceable. He brought medical specialists that tended to my mother with great care and adoration. Let me tell you though, you would absolutely just have to be a toot for my mother not to love you. She loved everybody and everybody loved her.

Her oncologist was quite young, so my mother doted on him like a son who just so happen to have medicine to make her better. Mom came out of her first round of cancer with single mastectomy, chemo and radiation and a 5 year plan for a pill form of chemotherapy. Mom didn’t just survive round one, she maintained normal activity. She worked the ENTIRE time she was undergoing chemo and radiation. She participated in church. She traveled to Texas to see pathetic me. She was a beast.

God showed me the parting of the Sea through the strength of my mother. God delivered our family on dry land on her shoulders. Yes, I prayed a LOT, as did the rest of my family. But my mom’s stoic face of joy and faith in the God whom she was in love with was also the cloud that went before us. How in the world can you question that? When someone is faced with a challenge (an army running at them full speed with arms) and they just smile and say, “I will trust in the Lord,” how can you not say, “me too!” Let’s cross this sea!

Don’t miss this. There is a wall of water that you have already walked by in your life. It probably will not be the last. But praise God that you walked by it. He didn’t have you do that for fun. He wanted you to be in AWE of the DRY land and the WALL of water. Be in Awe of what He has done for you today.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Oh It's Monday...Dread

So it's that day where most of the working public begin their routine again...the routine which gives them the title of "working public." As they rise and begin their routine, many with some form of caffeine to give them alertness and endurance, there is a grumbling about them as well. Either it is the exhaustion from awakening early; the drudgery of the commute; the anticipation of negativity with the labor; pre-established frustration with coworkers to face once more; or maybe it is even the vexation with self for the current career path. In fact, according to the NY Daily News’ recent publishing of a Gallup poll survey, there are less than 30% of Americans happy in their job. The other 70% are reportedly disengaged – even if there are substantial perks or benefits involved.

As a history teacher I find that often certain social behavior evolves over generations. I also find the unspoken rationale in the changing of behavior is the slow, almost unseen, downfall of the role model. One hundred years ago, there was no television to visually watch role models influence your children. It was you, your family, and your neighbors setting a standard. One hundred years ago, you didn’t dare quit your job or change careers in the midst of your life. There were two reasons for this behavior. One was fear of loss of income. The other was a sense of commitment. You were committed to the job that has been given to you AND you were committed to your family to provide for them.

Now, did everyone like their job 100 years ago? Absolutely not! This was at the time where the automobile industry was just beginning it’s assembly line process and there were no robotic arms to create easier approaches to the process. This was when electricity was just becoming more frequented in homes and businesses; therefore, the midnight shift was being introduced and people were being hired to work all night to increase production. This was when there was little to no restriction on the minimum wage, days off, insurance, retirement, etc. It didn’t exist. So you worked knowing that you must.

Today, we are blessed and cursed with government involvement in the capitalistic society we have so desperately tried to build. Because of the government, we have a minimum wage, and do not have to work more than we sign on to work. Meaning, if you know going into the job that you could be working 7 days a week, you are forewarned. Because of the government, there is social security for those who neglect to put away for retirement or that moment when you may no longer be able to provide for yourself. Because of the government, there are no longer small children getting stuck in looms in factories. Because of the government, there are no longer foods placed on the shelves with small chunks of rat mixed in that fell into the grinder during processing. However, because of the government, there are many flaws as well. There are too many to include in today’s post. TOO MANY. Another day, another post.

Am I opposed to the blessings of certain restrictions placed on businesses so that they do not abuse employees? Gracious no! Am I opposed to the freedom to change jobs because of new opportunities or new challenges that you wish to provide for yourself? Nope! But be careful…it seems questionable on that ‘ole resume if you job hop a lot. Am I questioning people’s commitment level to their work as many admit disengagement and discontent? Sorta, but I can be included in this from time to time. One thing of which I know the government, or any employer, has no control is how I choose to approach my work.

You see, though your present assignment as a stay-at-home mom, or corporate executive, or air traffic controller, or oral surgeon, it is your present assignment. Chew on that for a minute.

God has allowed you the blessing of being among the employed, first of all. God has allowed you access to finances that will probably supply all your NEEDS. God has given you something to do that can go on your resume as continual commitment to a task as well as the experience you are gaining from this commitment. God has BLESSED YOU. Therefore, realize that in your present assignment, as inglorious as it may seem to you, you can bless others and you can glorify God in the midst of your pleasant or unpleasant circumstances. Your demeanor is impacting on so many people every day. Your joy, or lack thereof, can easily influence a coworker in need of joy or peace or assurance or just a laugh. Your choice to grumble affects your family, and don’t blame the coffee (that is something that you choose to rely upon too).

As Monday brings light to a new day and I begin the grind that is considered laborious, I have a personal choice to make concerning my present assignment. Do I accept it? Not just the “job” assigned to me by my employer, the job assigned to me by my Creator, to bring honor to Him all that I do. There are people counting on me to bring Christ to them today. Though I may not pass out tracks and preach the Word in my words all day, I preach it with my life. Are you going to point people to Him today or confirm to them that you do not have hope in the Lord and you, “Christian,” are no different than anyone else? You do not know the weekend your coworker had or the attendant at the gas station had. You do know you have this chance to bring them joy with just a simple smile, a good laugh, or a cup of coffee. Be blessed!

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58

Friday, February 14, 2014


Yep, it's that day. That time of year where we commercialize affection and adoration. That day where we overcharge the ever beautiful rose and we see the Hallmark Corporation revenue quadruple from the other days out of the year. That day where we give restaurants a full belly and provide Whitman's and Russell Stover the ability to only focus on one major product - the boxed chocolate. And the stuffed animal industry? When else can you sell a gazillion monkeys with their arms in shackles promoting imprisonment? Prisoner of your heart! It's a day where men stress because they do not have enough or do not have the "right" gift, so they overspend trying to make sure they win their lady's heart. Victoria Secret smiles at this holiday as well because we all know that spending over $100 on a garment that only you and one other person will see makes sense. We sell love.

Can you smell my sarcastic cynicism? I have never really liked this holiday. Sure, I went through a small (large) phase in my life where I was not a Valentine for anyone and sure it might have made me feel some type of insecurity at some point along the way. But really, I just have never liked the idea that we have to set aside a day to "love" each other. There are people in relationships now that this day stands out high and above the other 364 days a year (ok maybe 362 because of birthdays and Christmas). Why? Why do we make this such a big event? I will tell you why. It is because it awakens our neglect. It creates that sharp awareness that we may not have been so loving the other moments during the year. It guilts us into love because we were not committed all year long.

In our church, we define love as the radical commitment and advancement to the well-being of the other. It is not conditional. It is not temporal. Here's the big kicker: it is not limited to just one.

A new commandment I give to you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. - John 13:34-35

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above ourselves. Romans 12:10

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24

There are many more passages specifically stating that we are to love one another. However, we sometimes twist the "one another" to be the select few people we want to love because they are easy to love. Nope. Not what He said. One another = everyone. And last I checked, God was not in the business of promoting a holiday of love to spur His followers to love each other. He kinda told them to do this, um, all the time.

Merriam-Webster defines radical as very new and different from what is traditional and ordinary. You see, most of our challenges from scripture to love one another come from the New Testament. Bigger picture - the New Testament is new because Jesus came to make being a follower of God different from tradition.

We live in the New Testament side of scripture. That doesn't mean we drop the Old Testament. That is still the Word of God. However, we no longer operate under the same traditions.

So let's look at some examples at how you can love with the radical commitment to the advancement and well-being of the other today.

1. Love your significant other in their love language - even if it isn't your love language and you are not all that comfortable with that method. If you do not know their love language, maybe today is the day where you start observing them a little more thoroughly. Typically people love you in their love language. (gift giving, words of affirmation, physical touch, etc.)

2. Open your eyes. See the need of the people you cross paths with during the day. Actually tip the server at your dinner tonight what they are due, and maybe a little more to bless them. Even though they may not do a perfect job (and I am aware they do not all do so well - I can say that because I have worked in this industry), they are still trying to support themselves and perhaps some other dependents. Maybe your "Love" will spur them on to "love" and good deeds.

3. Speak words of encouragement to your fellow employees and or peers. Are you complaining about your job or being the spark of hope for those who are laboring with you. Ouch! If you cannot speak words of positive joy about the labor, than be their comic relief. Or be their light who tells them what they are doing well when a supervisor does not. Or just remind them they are not among the unemployed. There is always something positive to just have to dig deep.

4. Perform housekeeping for a family member or friend in need. Someone who just had surgery. Someone who is homebound. Someone who is just struggling and needs to see Jesus in the action of others and not just hear preaching.

5. Bless a stranger. Buy a valentine for someone you don't know and ask God to tell you who to hand it to. Maybe even the next person you pass in the parking lot.

6. Neglect a chore to cuddle more. Don't miss time with your kids. They will remember it.

7. Pay a bill or for a meal or buy someone's groceries or just give.

8. Listen. Sometimes people start a conversation with you on a surface level simply testing the waters to see if you are capable of merely listening to their heart.

9. Write a prayer and mail it to your person that God has placed on your heart.

10. Ask God to reveal to you the best use of your time and money. When I go shopping sometimes I actually restrain myself by self-talk. Yes, I talk to myself and yes, I answer. Really God answers, but I flesh it out with Him. When you find that new item to buy for yourself or for your home, ask Him if this is an allowable use of the money He has given to you. If not, what would he have you spend that money on? Yes, I promise, He will sometimes let you buy something new. Just make sure He has not made you aware of a need that you have neglected.

If you have other great ideas for "love", then comment and allow others to share in your inspiration. I pray your day is filled with advancement and that someone puts your well-being ahead of their own. May I remind you, someone did. His name is Jesus Christ. I love you and that is one of the reasons why I write. Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Who's Picking Your Battles

Anxiety. It ravages me from time to time. And you know what sucks? When someone points out that my anxiety is only caused by my fear of lack of control in situations that I needn't have control? Or situations that I really needn't worry about because they may not even come to fuition? Then my anxiety gets larger as I am frustrated with myself for wasting time trying to fix a problem I shouldn't fix or analyzing a situation that might be out of my scope of influence. Grrr. I am mad at myself even now even thinking about past moments of wasted time and emotion.

There are numerous causes of anxiety. Trauma from a past experience such as abuse or a loss of a loved one or an empactin event; substance abuse and the withdrawal effects; side effects from medical conditions; the lack of oxygen because of an illness or change in altitude; genetics; and even chemical disorders in the brain. Yet the number one cause of anxiety is stress. Let me give you things that are leading causes of stressors to see if you are included in this parade of anxious individuals.

Stress can be caused by:
1. Relationships - family, school, work, social groups, volunteer groups, groups you are not a part of but wish to be...
2. Work - success, progress, acceptance, promotion, deadlines, commute, whom you are impacting/impressing (see above)
3. School - success, progress, cliques, teachers, grades, weaknesses, whom you are impacting/imressing
4. Medical conditions - what can you do to prevent? What can you do to quicken healing? What can you do to recover? What you can do to avoid? side effects of medication. acceptance of the condition. whom your condition impacts.
5. natural disasters - fear of hurricanes, tornados, floods, earthquakes, fires, etc.
6. finances - not having enough, not saving enough, not investing correctly, not earning enough, etc.

Check out this chart from the National Institute of Mental Health:

Fear and Worry Statistics Data

Percent of things feared that will never take place 60 %
Percent of things feared that happened in the past and can’t be changed 30 %
Percent of things feared that are considered to be insignificant issues 90 %
Percent of things feared in relation to health that will not happen 88 %
Number of Americans who have a diagnosed phobia 6.3 Million

Top Phobias Percent of US Population
1 Fear of public speaking – Glossophobia 74 %
2 Fear of death – Necrophobia 68 %
3 Fear of spiders – Arachnophobia 30.5 %
4 Fear of darkness – Achluophobia, Scotophobia or Myctophobia 11 %
5 Fear of heights – Acrophobia 10 %
6 Fear of people or social situations – Sociophobia 7.9 %
7 Fear of flying – Aerophobia 6.5 %
8 Fear of confined spaces – Claustrophobia 2.5 %
9 Fear of open spaces – Agoraphobia 2.2 %
10 Fear of thunder and lightning – Brontophobia 2 %

Though you think you are not anxious, you are letting things take up space in your mind that are battles you are not to fight at this moment in time. Our God will supply all our needs. This means that He will give you the tools to accomplish each task AS HE WANTS YOU TO ACCOMPLISH THEM. If it is not time to tackle that task, than of course you are not properly equipped. Time to wait. Put that fretting aside. If it is time to tackle a battle and you have the tools at your feet, but you are too engrossed in fixing something that is not in God's vision for you at this moment, then you are sitting in clutter and idleness. You are not progressing, you are beginning to be covered in excess...which leads to anxiety because you don't know what to do.

Who is picking your battles? Is it God or is it you? Yes, God gives you a compassionate heart to see the needs of the world, but He also gives that same heart to others. You cannot do your job and everyone else's job too. You can see someone else's strength and direct them to the need that they can meet. Then there are two people being blessed as the need is being met and someone else is feeling useful, not to mention the satisfaction and release you are receiving because you are able to exert all of your energy and emotion into the task He has specifically designed for you.

One of our speakers at the recent teaching conference I attended spent a great amount of time emphasizing the importance of recognizing the strengths of those around you. When you have this database of the resources around you, it is easier to pick your battles. You can delegate the other battles that you see to those who are better equipped to have victory over them. Imagine the health of our generation if we simply did what we were designed to do! Less illness because of mental and physical fatigue caused by overworking... Imagine the progression of the Kingdom of the Lord if I, you, we did what we were suppose to do!

Let God pick your battles.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Friend

When we moved, one of the things I fretted about was friendships for my children. I am a planner, and I want to know that if this scenario doesn't happen, then we try option B or C. Stick with me. So I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would deliver sweet little friends for my girls to help them grow into phenomenal women of God. God answered the prayer for my first little one by surrounding her with a precious group of friends at our church. However, I will tell you that our first year of transition was a tough year for her. Prior to our move, she had been enrolled in a preschool and was thriving. After our move, I stayed at home for a year and she became the child that hides behind Mommy's legs. Understandable though. She had a lot happen in just a few months - we changed states, added to our family with child #2, and oh yeah, her father almost died. More on that another day...

As the birth of my second child made changes in our home, it was apparent that I needed to return to work. My God provided a job and phenomenal childcare for my two little ones and the stages of development followed. My oldest came back out of her shell, well, as much as she will. However, my Mommy heart was struggling with my little one. She was really the only consistent little girl her age in church class. Because Abbi did not have any friends her age that were girls, she wanted to play with Emma and her friends. I did not want to make Emma play with her. So Mommy played with Abbi a lot when Emma's friends were over. I know, I am a sap.

Eventually my youngest followed my oldest as a student in our school districts unique preschool program entitled RISE. This program combined a fairly 50/50 ratio of typical and atypical students. The teacher that heads up this program, well, I will have to write another blog post about her. Tina Jernigan is probably the most amazing teacher and, now, friend that I have ever met. Both of our girls were reading fluently within the first semester even as she was teaching other students in the room to simply form their sweet little mouths for the sounds of letters. Mrs. Jernigan is phenomenal at what she does and simply as a person. Yes, I am tearing up as I write this. Though this class was life changing for both of my girls, it was an answer to prayer for Abbi.

Through this class, I got to watch Abbi begin some of her first and most treasured friendships. Because of her birthday, and public school requirements on age to start a school year, she actual spent 2 years in this same class. In year one, Abbi was able to begin and strengthen friendships that are still with her even though these friends are in different classes and different activities now. Finally, she did not need to play with her sisters friends (though she still does), because she had the confidence of having her own friends.

There is one friendship she developed that was unique and special in its own way. Now each relationship we form is different, but I knew this friendship was going to impact Abbi for the rest of her life. Within her class both years was a set of twins that were absolutely beautiful and full of personality and each different in their own way. Rose was spunky and sweet and brought about the leader in Abbi. Lily Belle was adorable and funny. She brought about the servant in Abbi. Abbi loved them both so very much and I feel the love was reciprocated. Yet it was Lilly Belle that she came home talking about every day. Let me tell you what Lilly Belle said today mom? Let me tell you what Lilly Belle did today mom?

There is something more that you should know, though. Lilly Belle suffered from a rare bone disease that had created great challenges to her over her first few years of life. She endured a bone marrow transplant before the age of 1 that saved her life, but there were conditions that had occurred to her before that transplant resulting in some slight disabilities. Lilly Belle was blind. She could not see Abbi, but she knew what Abbi looked like. I cannot even begin to tell you how amazing it was to watch them interact. Mind you, Lilly Belle was not blind to Abbi or Lilly Belle. Yet, I saw Abbi, AND OTHERS, make sure that Lilly Belle was getting the full extent of every experience they encountered together. Abbi would help her in the classroom and on the playground. They talked to each other like to teenage girls texting. They would both light up in the presence of the other.

Throughout the two years together, Abbi's love for Lilly Belle grew, as did Abbi's maturity in the process of connecting with people. Lilly Belle still suffered from discomforts from her disease and would be sick and out of school from time to time. Those times were hard on Abbi. Her first words into the car at the end of the day was, "Mom, Lilly Belle wasn't at school today." "Mom, Lilly Belle is still sick." "Mom, can we pray for Lilly Belle tonight? I miss her." "Mom, Lilly Belle had a headache today and had to go home." My conversations with Abbi during these times were of comfort and encouragement as we learned to trust LB's creator. However, I tried to explain some of Lilly Belle's illness to Abbi so she could understand why her headaches were different from our headaches.

In July of 2013, God decided that the suffering the Lilly Belle had endured for her five impacting years was enough and He chose to bring her to wholeness in His presence. The grief that is being experienced by her family is immeasurable and continues to reach new levels of coping. Please pray for their wounded hearts as this contagious personality that filled their home is no longer audible, only visible in picture and video. Though they know where she is and that she is without any discomfort and is running and singing and SEEING everything, it does not completely close the wound. I am not in their home on a daily basis, but when I even try to put myself in that same situation, it is difficult to wrap my mind around.

How did this impact Abbi? Deeply. Three of the four of us were enroute to Ecuador on a mission trip when this happened. So unfortunately, we had to wait until we were all home again to tell Abbi. We wanted to be with her through questions as well as escort her through her steps of grieving and closure. Upon our arrival back to our home, I spent the day worrying over how to begin that discussion. God provided me the jump start as my sweet oldest child inquired about the health of her little sister's friend. I took them both into Abbi's room and I sat down holding Abbi's hand and explained to her how God decided to heal her. It was at this moment of three Powell girls sobbing that I was able to hear God clearly say to me, "you prayed for her to have a real friend, and the agony she is displaying right now is an answer to prayer." So the tears poured even more.

To know that God had given my daughter the ability to have a friend that she connected with enough to truly grieve is an amazing bittersweet joy. You see, there are adults who have yet to have a friend like that. But because Abbi loved, it hurt. However, this kind of hurt is needed in order to truly begin to understand God's love for us. We love because He first loved. Some might say that a five year old will not be impacted later in life by such a moment. I watch decisions she makes daily based upon that love. It has changed her life, and quite frankly all of our lives. Though their friendship was really on the equivalent of 2 years, it was deep and precious. My heart is ever grateful that the Maker of the Universe not only heard my cries for my child, but He chose to allow her to cross paths with a friend who would change her life.

As I read back through 1 & 2 Samuel studying the friendship of Jonathan and David, I was reminded of Lilly Belle and Abbi. This story of sacrificial and unconditional love for a friend is moving and priceless, but what struck me this time was the duration. You see, in the grand picture of David's life, Jonathan was only a part of the introduction. He was only around for a short time. He died just as David was taking power over Judah. However, his death erupted a wealth of emotions from David as this friend was priceless to him was no longer able to be around. David is described as a man after God's own heart, but we also know that David was truly human. I imagine that David was a little mad at God at the loss of this treasured relationship. I imagine that David saw Jonathan walking through these next few stages of his life alongside him, but now he would not.

Abbi never thought that Lilly Belle would not be with her and she grieved and still grieves that she is not, but we are working through it. Yesterday Lilly Belle would have been 6 years old. Yesterday I cried for my daughter who lost her friend. I cried for a family that had a very challenging day to celebrate as Lilly Belle's precious sister Rose and older sister Delilah celebrated their birthdays as well. I cried tears of joy for a little girl who sees beauty and feels wholeness that I can only dream of.

Have you had that friend yet? Or are you afraid to develop that intimate of a relationship with anyone because you don't want to get hurt? God created us to have relationships. You are missing out of all that He has for your life if you are avoiding this challenge. Yes they can be hard, but I will tell you that those that bless me enough to call me friend are definitely sent by God. He is sending people your way...just make sure you are seeing people through His eyes and not your jaded world eyes. They are there, waiting to bless you. Take the step and model for others how to begin a friendship.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Pressure of Parenting

Have you seen my two girls? They are so very special and each sooooooo very different. My oldest is Anne of Green Gables trapped in a 9 year old body. Emma's desires are of the homestead pages of history. She longs to grow her own garden, to milk a cow, to sew, to knit, to read, to craft, to make things out of trash. Seriously, she made each person in our family puppy dogs that she created out of 20 oz. bottles, duct tape, and sharpie. (Thanks Papa for providing the supplies) I know that there are still precious people out in our society who participate in each of those desired behaviors of my little friend, but it is not the normal desires of a child her age. She LOVES to learn and is super inquisitive. She loves to watch the history channel and "How It's Made." She is compassionate and giving as well as patient. She is also able to read between the lines and decipher the deeper meaning of situations and statements. I muse watching her cross that stage in life where she wants to be a part of the adult conversation so she chimes in and makes efforts to engage. Remember that stage. I think it was like 24 for me. :) She is far older than her years. Yet, she is still a developing young lady who has much to learn.

My youngest is a Disney pop princess who is an aspiring actress and musician. She will, no doubt be performing soon. I have just embraced it and accepted it. We have given full warning to our music minister at our church that when she comes through, she will have to stand in the back because of the passion behind the volume of her singing. She loves, LOVES, LOVES to sing. She LOVES, LOVES, LOVES to dress up, both in fiction AND in real life. She is not a fan of pants. She would rather be in a dress or skirt any day than jeans. Often, when given the opportunity to dress herself, she emerges from her room as a small Punky Brewster or Cindy Lauper. We even bought gloves for her a few days ago because she didn't have any for playing the snow. Well this set of gloves came with 2 pair - one pair to be utilized for true warmth as her entire hand was covered and one pair with the fingers chopped off and a little bit of silver thread sewn in. She very clearly stated to me, once we got into the car and she was trying them on, "Mom, these gloves will be perfect for me when I am a rock star." She is gifted in her own separate ways. Like her father, she has the ability to retain almost anything. Once hearing a song for the first time, if she can understand all the words, she can sing it back to you immediately. Good times are had though when she doesn't understand the words and just makes them up - like Lady Gaga's song Bad Romance is also known as White Chocolate Romance in our home. Personally, I like Abbi's lyrics better. She picked up reading super-fast and is now reading chapter books with me. She can sing on pitch and can even hear harmony sometimes. She, too, is incredibly creative and artsy in her own way.

While I am thankful for the way they have turned out thus far, I still stay in a fret of the road ahead. WE HAVE NOT EVEN BEGUN THE TEENAGE STAGE IN THIS RACE YET! I remember myself as a teenager. (insert embarrassed frowny face) I wasn't a horrible kid, but I was disrespectful and selfish and opinionated and manipulative. If that is how you still see me, I AM SO SORRY. I am bowing before Him daily asking Him to remove those aspects of me. Knowing these things about myself, and knowing that both of them are my offspring, I am preparing for battle each and every day. It is going to be a ride in need of a seat belt and helmet for sure.

Often, we are able to glean from the Bible that people are often experiencing punishment from the behavior of their parents. However, some of our Jewish friends took this too legalistic and literal. You can have an ailment that is not the fault of your parents or you can make choices that are not in line with your parents. But let me tell you something, now that I am a parent, I get it. I get what our Lord was intending for us to take away. There are 10 commandments and one of those is Honor Your Father and Mother. We can beat that into them or we can love that into them. As a teacher, I see children who have had both approaches presented to them. Unfortunately, I see kids, who I really do not blame for not honoring their father and mother because they either have never known their parents or are currently not living with parents because of choices the parents have done.

Let me be more personal. How can I expect my daughters to honor me when I do not honor myself? Do I model for them someone who is pleased with their physical appearance? If not, do I model someone who is proactively doing something about this lack of pleasure AND do I use words to explain my lack of satisfaction with myself that point to the Creator of my body and not the world? Do I model someone who exudes self-discipline with activities, with food, with money, with relationships, with work, with leisure? They are watching EVERYTHING. Many of the traits I mentioned above that describe my girls are wonderful and not skills that I possess. However, though we do not always have same interests, I am modeling for them ways to improve their skills (to sharpen the saw as Covey would say) and to utilize time. I am using my voice to encourage or discourage their passions. The things I do during these 18+ years of their lives are crucial to the legacy that we leave. Will my girls feel confident to be leaders? Will they feel confident to try, even when it seems impossible? Will they stay committed and not quit because it just isn't something they are interested in anymore? Will they be able to be a part of something bigger because they have a record they can rely upon?

In the book of Ezra, chapter 2 is devoted primarily to the historical lineage of the Israelites. The end of the passage includes a collection of people who were a part of the pilgrimage who could not benefit from the same blessings as the rest of the Israelites. The reason they could not is because they could not make certain their family had descended from Israel. In other words, someone in their family's history had dropped the ball. They had failed to write down their "family tree" or they had intermarried with people of other nations and damaged the purity of the lineage or some other unfortunate event. Regardless, somewhere along the story, a parent had failed to do what they are supposed to do, and now the child was suffering from it.

What are you doing to make sure that your child is able to receive the blessings from their Heavenly Father? What are you doing to make sure they know how to talk to Him even when you are not around to show them? What are you doing to model trusting Him when times are tough? What are you doing to model appreciation for His blessings? What are doing to praise Him in good times AND bad? What are you doing to encourage them to strengthen their talents and to discipline themselves to practice? What are you modeling for coping with disappointment? How are you showing them the intricacies of relationships and respect of other people - not just believers? How are you treating your temple - physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? They are watching. Remember that when you decided to engage in adult behavior to create these children you have, you decided to engage in the journey that brings about the responsibility of commitment to their future.

Oh God, may you give me the tools I need to make today what it needs to be for your kingdom. May I see you in these 2 sets of eyes that look at me and may I hear your urgency. I pray that they learn today a little bit more about what it means to be hopelessly in love with you.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Discerning His Voice

As I sat through this women's conference filled with individuals who were all in love with the same man, I was accutely aware that my affection for Him that I thought that I had was not even a mere crush. In relationships that we have on this earth - the ones, by the way, that He allows us to have - we enter in and out of true intimate knowledge of one another. Sometimes your spouse/significant other and yourself can finish each other's sentences and sometimes they have a new interest that you didn't even know about. Sometimes your best friend goes with you every Tuesday for a Starbucks break and sometimes the struggles of maintaining a family robs you of that connection and you miss things as simple as their 3 year old had the flu.

The same ebb and flow happens with God and me. I detest the fact that I have to admit it, but it is true. Because we are in a relationship, I am confident that He will always be there, so there are times where I let true investment in our relationship slide. The most crucial thing that I let slide is listening. God doesn't just want to listen to me complain or even just praise. He wants to reciprocate and will if I will just allow Him to do so. I am rereading Priscilla Shirer's book, Discerning the Voice of God, for the third time! Why? Cause I need to stop talking.

I am here to tell you that I have had that goose bump awe of my Father when He speaks to me. And that is why I have such disappointment in myself. I have heard Him before. He has been loud and clear to me on more than one occassion. If I have had such an amazingly moving experience, WHY WOULD I NOT WANT IT TO CONTINUE? Yes, my life becomes full with challenges that compromise my joy. Yet, I let those situations steal my joy. I let things come between us. I listen to the evil one over the Lord.

Even yesterday, I was in an attitude of utter joy and excitement as I was clearly hearing His present calling upon my life. I was in that place of committed progression where I was "on fire" for Jesus as we sometimes say in church circles. I had begun to listen to His plan so that I could take my feet and make them move in the direction of His voice. And then that poopy head Satan whispers lies to me. Let me tell you something friend, he is so evil and deceptive. It was not one of those moments where I have a white angel on one shoulder and a red devil on the other like the cartoons. No, no. It was one of those moments that I did not realize until I was crying in my closet trying to pick out what to wear for work tomorrow. If you chuckled, you should have. I was crying while looking through my clothes. Yes, I am a cryer, but really?

Let me point that out real quick though, my awareness came when I removed myself from the other situation. I stepped away and went to do some mundane task/chore, and I heard Him again. "Jodi, you know that we have had an amazing day and that your spirit was in obedience. Jodi, you realize that this wound was open simply to remove you from the path on which I have you and to give doubt to my love for you. Jodi, you know who has been in control of your thoughts and mind for the past hour or more."

And then I get angry because I let the lies creep in. Ha! I am one hot roller coaster aren't I. My point is, once you hear it, chase it. It will be as clear as you allow it to be. I am a person that needs a timeout in moments of stress or conflict. I have always thought that I need it to calm down, but God has designed me that way because He needs to talk to me. And in that moment when my emotions are flared, I can't hear him. I can only hear my self doubt. I can only hear my negative speaking. I can only hear Satan. Just like when a boxer takes a short break to go to his corner and get water and listen to stratgy from his coach, we need that break as well. Some of us more than others. My water is His word and I listen to Him...when I take that break. It needs to happen more often. You see, the stronger I come back into the fight, the harder the blows from Satan will be.

Hurts like death of a loved one. Hurts like words from someone you love that are intentionally destructive. Hurts like financial hardship. Hurts like loneliness. Hurts like disconnect from a close relationship that was a part of your cloud. Hurts like illness. Hurts like fear of possible circumstances. You see the hurts are personally designed for you. A few years ago, I did a study where I identified my weaknesses. It was amazingly freeing for me. Doesn't make sense does it? You see, by identifying my true weaknesses, I was able to see Satan's in route. I looked back over situations of pain in my life and saw that the pain wasn't just a crappy time in my life. It was personally designed for me so that I would either fall away from God or so that, I dare say, would turn on God. Satan is good at what he does. And friend, I am sorry to tell you, he will not stop until we are home with the Lord.

So when your "hurt" happens, I encourage you to get alone with Him and let Him talk. He is not always going to immediately tell you why something has happened. However, your trust in Him will open a door that leads to understanding. He will speak. You just have to listen.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

My Mask

My girls love, love, love to dress up. In so doing, they are becoming someone else and entering into a fantasy, or story that their little minds are scripting as they go. They have animal masks of all types like cats, tigers, elephants, and dogs. They have the ever present Mardi Gras masks from art projects and dance costumes. But let’s be real, Mardi Gras masks are also super hero masks, right? Yet, they even have that too. Our whole family dressed up as the Incredibles for Halloween a few years back and we all have those little black masks. We laugh as we imitate fictional characters and express our feelings and emotions through acting.

Let me say that again, we laugh as we imitate fictional characters and express our feelings and emotions through acting. Children are not the only ones who participate in this behavior. It emerges in our childhood, but is disguised in our adolescence and adulthood as normal behavior. So perhaps you do not walk around in an enormous hoop skirt, a ridiculously tight corset, perfect ringlet curls, an oversized antebellum hat, and a parasol; but you do behave like Scarlett sometimes. Her arrogant and selfish behavior is not really what I am wanting to imply either; but rather the dismissal and denial of certain behaviors and problems. "I'll think about that tomorrow." Because let's all admit, Scarlett was a strong, stubborn, and driven woman too. Sometimes we subconsciously emulate people because of characteristics we admire.

Scarlett may not be whom you find yourself mimicking, but maybe the girls on the playground in elementary school or in the popular clique during high school. There every day behavior was not characteristic of whom you really are, but the author of lies got to you and convinced you that who you are is wrong. You are to change in order to be accepted. This mentality becomes locked in and continues throughout your life. Have you even realized that? The little girl who decided to try out for cheerleading even though she loved sports that conflicted with the cheerleading schedule...she's still there. It even leaks into career choices for many of us. We choose nursing or teaching or dental hygienist or banking because someone else we knew did and they said it was the right fit for them.

What about your love for astronomy? Why didn't you pursue that even when nobody else did? What about your love of chemical compounds and how the God of the universe had allowed modern man to even figure out how some of those compounds come to be? What about your love of engines and the very physics of how it works? What about your love of travel and culture? What about your love of advertisement and the actual mental work that goes into the persuasive writing and imagery? What about your love of music and the talent that God has given you to play an instrument - even your voice? What about (insert neglected passion here)? Do not misunderstand me. The first career goals are phenomenal professions that are essential to the function of society and can be fulfilling and rewarding as you know you are contributing to the greater good. I am one of those professions currently in the wonderful world of middle school social studies.

But I have a greater passion. I have a greater desire. It is not mine. It is my God's. I have spent years trying to figure out how to fulfill it in ways that seem logical to me. I have spent years trying to make it work in what I see others do that look similar to what I think I am supposed to do. I have been wearing a mask...and I somewhat didn't even realize it.

I hate masks really, both literal and figurative. When I became characters for Halloween as a child, I rarely wanted to be ANYTHING that had to wear something on my face other than makeup. Even then, I was hesitant. I know this sounds crazy, but it made me feel claustrophobic. I hate them literally too. I despise that we live in a society that preys on vulnerability. I have so often been a victim of people utilizing my transparency against me. Why can't you accept me for who I am? Why must you take advantage of this weakness in order to promote your wellbeing?

Ester Havens shared in a brief word of encouragement yesterday that she decided to remove her mask literally in front of this great crowd of women. She showed pictures of women all over the world who were without makeup and without masks. She thought it hypocritical for her appearance to be altered as she appeared in a message with them. I appreciated her vulnerability and how she admitted the fear it evoked inside of her to stand before these women uncovered, but she was beautiful. And so are we. I have actually scaled back my makeup from my teens and college years realizing how unnatural it appears.

Now, though, my makeup matters not only to me, but to those in my sphere of influence. Specifically, I have 2 little ones watching and inquiring why I wear each product. Careful thought is put into each answer. And their questions make me wonder who else is asking without really coming out and saying it. I no longer want to be the popular girl. I no longer want to be the model on the cover of the magazine. I no longer want that pressure. I want to be me.

Will I stop wearing makeup? No. My answer to my girls is that it is like an accessory that enhances the outfit. But I don't wear it every day. Will I stop them from playing dress up? Absolutely not! Suppressing creativity and imagination is cruel and unusual punishment. They will know that the young lady in the skin underneath it all is amazing and brilliant and able to do all things through Christ which strengthens them though. Will I stop trying to figure out the specifics of my calling? No! And I might look like others a time or two as I am trying to find it, but I will be me. The me He created me to be.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

What If

Middle School. Or shall I say Junior High. Ah yes, many of us just did that weird empathetic wincing sound that makes us full of uncomfortableness as we recount our experience. We were in a very pivotal developmental stage during these years. This is a time in life filled with hormone changes and identity crisis. This is when many boys experience the luxury of getting facial hair and that deep "man" voice that they have been hoping to achieve while ridding themselves of the squeak. This is when many girls receive that monthly visit from their aunt that they are still to this day not looking forward to. This is the time when acne first ramps up and if uncontrollable alters their identity. This is the time where hair is important and knowing how to fix it in the latest style is crucial for day to day acceptance. And if we must open the door to appearance-led acceptance, we must also usher in the pressure of label - what company manufactured your article of clothing. Of all these major and minor crisis that expose their ugly heads all in a short period of time, the most important one that I ALWAYS tell the teens I interact with is the establishment of their clique. Seriously. This identifies them greater than any of the other life-changing matters. These are the people who will walk with them through the next developmental phase and these are the people that will influence their decisions. These are the people with whom they will arrive at conviction and opinion. These are the people who will give them comfort and encouragement. Crucial.

I have taught this age for 11+ years. I have watched this battle long enough to know which student is going to turn out which way by the end of the year. Predictable, they are. There are markers and conditions that assist in the prediction of the next stage of their life. Do they have both parents at home? Are both parents actually involved in their life? BOTH. Girls need dads to show them how men should treat women and what a head of a household should look like. Boys need moms to show them how women should treat men and what the helpmate should look like. Their self-confidence coming into middle school is imperative to survival and emergence. Their coping ability and problem solving skills should be sharpened during this time, not just beginning. If any of these factors are off, it is possible that development can be skewed unless there is intervention or substitution. Possible, but not guaranteed.

As I have emerged as a woman, I have peeled back so many of the markings I bare from as far back as grammar school. Sometimes I forget about them, but sometimes they rear their ugly head and alter my decisions or self-confidence or movements.

After attending a women's conference recently, I became aware of a very simple yet extremely relevant question - what if? If God is real, as I say He is, what if I act like it? The God who made me many moons ago is the God who walked with me through those phases of the moon. He was there and is here and will be there. God is real. I don't live a life that totally trusts and believes that. I live a life of comfort and avoidance of fear. "God, you know my abilities, so you will understand if I decline that opportunity. God, you know that I can do this, so I will do this to further your kingdom. God, you know how this type of situation awakens that insecurity and makes me feel farther from you, so I will not participate. God, I don't believe you can." Though the last statement has NEVER left my lips, my life has demonstrated it. Those elevated insecurities that we feel during middle school are the same insecurities that hold us back from moving forward.

We want to belong to something bigger. We want to be accepted. We want to appear collected. We dare not admit that we cannot handle it. We dare not admit that we have a wound that has never healed properly. We dare not admit that we have not confessed all of our wrong to the King who already knows your sin. We hide in our victimization and stay there because though unpleasant, it is somewhat comfortable.

What if we became uncomfortable so that we cannot be alone? What if we became uncomfortable so that someone that we claim to love feels the love and perhaps even feels the love of their Creator? What if we love ourselves instead of holding it to a comparison and insulting God's handiwork? What if we loved Him with the same unconditional love that He loves us? God is the one who can supply all of our needs and wants us to be relevant to a generation that could lose Him if we are not more actively engaged in the pursuit of truth.

If God is real, then what? Build a well? Write a book? Adopt a child? Knit a scarf for the homeless? Tutor a child? Plant a garden to give away? What's your "what?"